SNAP Letter to AG Schwalb

Dear AG Schwalb:

We are writing to ask you to open a thorough and wide-ranging investigation into clergy sex crimes and cover ups in the Washington DC Catholic archdiocese.

Roughly half of the AGs across the US are doing or have done such probes. As a result, a number of child molesting clerics have been arrested, charged, convicted and jailed. This of course makes kids safer. (Just one investigation, by the Michigan AG, has so far led to the criminal prosecution of 11 clerics: Vincent DeLorenzo, Joseph “Jack” Baker, Neil Kalina, Gary Berthiaume, Gary Jacobs, Joseph Comperchio, Brian Stanley, Patrick Casey, Timothy Crowley, Roy Joseph and Jacob Vellian.)

When predators can’t be prosecuted (mostly because of archaic, predator-friendly legal technicalities like restrictive statutes of limitations), these investigations typically result in informative public documents that shed long-delayed and critically important light on this on-going crisis. This also makes kids safer.

(As the New York Times reported "The sheer numbers in the state reports published so far are staggering: 163 perpetrators in Missouri, 97 in Florida, 188 in Kansas. There have been long lists of credibly accused priests and others in Catholic ministry, thousands of pages of victims’ narratives, and front-page headlines about the findings. Attorneys general have been photographed with towering stacks of documents, hoisting doorstop publications that are the product of years of research and interviews.")

Even the shortest and least-detailed reports that emerged from these investigations make kids safer. They warn parents, police, parishioners, prosecutors and the public about potentially dangerous child predators. They usually identify, by name, church supervisors who at best turned a blind eye to abuse and at worst actively enabled crimes by shredding records, deceiving police, stiff-arming prosecutors, pushing NDAs and using hardball legal tactics to scare victims into staying silent.

These probes also bring considerable comfort, healing and closure to thousands of deeply wounded and still suffering victims of child sex crimes. They deter other decision makers - inside and outside the church - from ignoring or concealing suspicions or knowledge of child sex crimes. And they educate all of us in the ways that child molesters slept in groom their victims and how supervisors and colleagues ignore or hide these crimes.

Why should you investigate the Washington DC archdiocese in particular?

Because Washington DC is a very transient area, attracting millions of visitors and tourists annually. It’s in a relatively heavily Catholic section of the country. It's a very short drive from a number of other heavily Catholic jurisdictions on the eastern seaboard. It has several institutions of Catholic higher education (Catholic University, Trinity Washington University, Georgetown University) and has had several others which have since shuttered. It’s near the nation’s long-time and most-widely-used Catholic ‘treatment center’ for ‘problem priests’ (St. Luke’s in Maryland).

All of these factors, in our experience, mean that the District is an attractive place for those who would commit or conceal clergy sex crimes against children. They also make the detection and deterrence of such crimes less likely.

But even if our belief or suspicions are off, research shows that between six and ten percent of US Catholic priests are accused of child sex crimes. History, psychology, experts and common sense all tell us child sexual abuse is vastly under-reported, perhaps especially in an ancient, rigid, secretive, all-male monarchical structure.

So this strongly suggests there are hundreds of adults, here and elsewhere, who were severely hurt as children by Catholic clerics in your jurisdiction. And now, many of them are now no doubt struggling with addictions, depression, agoraphobia, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts and other debilitating pain because of the horror they endured as kids.

It also suggests that some perhaps dozens of potentially dangerous predatory priests, brothers, nuns, monks, seminarians and bishops, are likely still in and around DC.

Some may claim that not all of these attorney general investigations have led to successful criminal prosecutions. But even if relatively few such prosecutions are possible, surely the protection of even one youngster is worth the effort.

In the District, if an investigation happens and still no predators are able to be criminally pursued, such an investigation could potentially lead to charges against clerics who are concealing or have concealed child sex crimes. Over the past 35 years, we in SNAP have seen law enforcement officials feel just as horrified and outraged by the church's on-going scandal as other citizens. As a result, many police, prosecutors and attorneys general have become more aggressive and creative about pursuing justice for the deeply wounded and against the powerful and corrupt. And many judges have become more open to novel arguments about how and why such wrongdoers should not be able to continue to evade accountability.

Finally, we ask that you undertake a probe of this nature for the same reason we believe every state attorney general should: because alarmingly, our federal government refuses to act on this crisis.

As best we can tell, not a single piece of legislation has been introduced by any federal officeholder in response to more than 100,000 boys and girls being sexually victimized by Catholic clergy over decades and thousands of child molesting clerics being protected, hidden, transferred and enabled by countless of their church supervisors and colleagues over decades. (While Congress has held countless hearings on a myriad of subjects - including far less serious ones, like steroid use in major league baseball - not a single member of the Senate or the House has initiated hearings on this on-going crisis.)

And as best we can tell, not a single piece of legislation has been introduced by any federal officeholder to prevent the same or similar wrongdoing by any religious institution in the US.

Here are other reasons why our members have found that publicly naming child molesting clerics is just and helpful.

We would be glad to sit down with you in person to discuss this and would of course also do everything possible to cooperate with and spread the word about such an investigation.

We hope to hear from you soon.

Dave Lorenz 301 906 9161, [email protected]

Tim Lennon 415 312 5820, [email protected]

Mike McDonnell 267 261 0578, [email protected]

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